Several Arab League monitors have left Syria, or may do so soon, because the
mission has failed to halt President Bashar Assad’s violent crackdown, a former
monitor said on Thursday.
Observers have not ventured out on tours of
restive areas since 11 of them were injured by pro-Assad demonstrators in the
port of Latakia on Monday, an attack which also sidelined plans to expand the
team. A League official said they would resume work Thursday once new safety
measures were in place in agreement with Syrian authorities.
opposition groups say the monitors, who deployed on December 26 to check whether
Syria was respecting an Arab peace plan, have only bought Assad more time to
crush protests that erupted in March.
Anwar Malek, an Algerian who quit
the monitoring team this week, said many of his former colleagues shared his
chagrin, and that a Moroccan legal specialist, an aid worker from Djibouti and
an Egyptian had also left the mission.
“There will be other people
pulling out... I don’t rule out that some countries will withdraw their members
if things continue this way,” he said.
Their departures could not
immediately be confirmed.
But another monitor, who asked not to be named,
told Reuters he planned to leave Syria on Friday. “The mission does not serve
the citizens,” he said. “It doesn’t serve anything.”
The government has
on several occasions released prisoners in putatives gestures of goodwill, but
Malek told Al Jazeera Arabic the moves were little more than
“They abduct people at random from the streets and put them for
four or five days in detention until they look terrible, after which they would
summon us to watch this play, pretending to be releasing detainees,” he said,
adding that opposition figures had told him not a single actual detainee had
The Arab League promptly struck back.
Mohammed al- Dabi, the head of the Arab monitors’ mission to Damascus, has
confirmed that what the monitor Anwar Malek said to a satellite channel does not
relate to the truth in any way,” the bloc said in a statement.
come under fire from rights groups over his role in the Darfur
“Since he was assigned to the Homs team, Malek did not leave
the hotel for six days and did not go out with the rest of the team into the
field, giving the excuse that he was sick,” the statement said, adding that
Malek had asked to travel to Paris for treatment but left suddenly on his
Malek said the days in which he did not leave his room
followed his Facebook posting Friday criticizing the mission, after which he
suspended his work.
The League, which will hear a full report from the
monitors on January 19, is divided over Syria, with Qatar the regime’s most
vocal critic and Algeria defending steps taken by Damascus.
journalist, Gilles Jacquier, was among nine people killed in the rebellious city
of Homs on Wednesday in what the state news agency SANA said was a mortar attack
The opposition Syrian National Council, however, placed
blame for his death squarely on the regime. “This killing is indicative of the
transition of the Syrian regime from preventing press from freely working and
covering the events in Syria to killing journalists and media personnel, in an
attempt to silence neutral and independent media sources,” it said in a
On Thursday Syrian expatriates from Europe, North America and
the Arab world set off to Syria from Turkey in a protest convoy to draw
attention to the plight of people in their strife-torn homeland.
convoy was not allowed entry to the country.
US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, meeting in Washington with Algeria’s Foreign Minister Mourad
Medelci, stressed “the need to end the Assad government’s assault on its own
Aram Nerguizian, a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies said the Arab League has long displayed contradictory
behavior toward Syria.
“Obviously the Sunni monarchies who make up the
bulk of the League’s foreign policy clout would like to isolate Iran by
crippling its ally Syria,” he told The Jerusalem Post from Washington. “But the
reality is also that any precedent that’s set would have real implications for
countries that could experience popular unrest” within their own borders, he
Nerguizian said he foresees the Syria crisis deteriorating into a
long term, bloody conflict.
“There’s no going back to the status quo. But
there’s also little chance there will be a scenario in which the regime
collapses or there is a smooth transfer of power – these are equally
implausible,” he said.
“What are the next steps? There aren’t any good
ones,” he said. “I don’t see an opposition that can present a coherent political
or military alternative in the short term. That’s one of the reasons this is so